Oscar-Winning Actor Alan Arkin Dies, Aged 89

Alan Arkin

by James White |
Updated on

Alan Arkin, an actor whose career spanned an impressive seven decades and countless memorable performances, and who won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine, has died. He was 89.

Alan Wolf Arkin was born in Brooklyn on March 26, 1934, with his family relocating to Los Angeles when he was 12. He started taking acting classes at a young age but became a college dropout to pursue his first creative love: music, forming the Tarriers, a folk-music group in which he was the lead singer. Arkin, along with the others, wrote a version of the Jamaican calypso folk tune 'The Banana Boat Song' that was a big hit in 1956.

Alongside writing and performing with the group, he began to pursue acting opportunities, and his two endeavours meshed for his (albeit uncredited) screen debut when he appeared with the Tarriers in 1957's Calypso Heat Wave. Arkin's musical talents also found their way into his stage work, combined with his having been part of the original Chicago Second City Comedy troupe, as he wrote lyrics, music and sketches for his Broadway debut From The Second City. His theatre work would see him go on to win a Tony for Joseph Stein’s comedy Enter Laughing and he also enjoyed a successful run as a director.

Yet it will be for his movie and TV career that Arkin will likely be best remembered, a man who could turn in scene-stealing performances even in smaller supporting roles. He toggled between small and big screens effortlessly, with his movie highlights including the likes of Argo, Wait Until Dark, Inspector Clouseau (the attempt to make a Pink Panther movie without Peter Sellers), Catch-22, Little Murders (which he also directed), The In-Laws, Big Trouble, Glengarry Glen Ross, So I Married An Axe Murderer, Edward Scissorhands, The Rocketeer, Gattaca, Slums Of Beverly Hills, Sunshine Cleaning, Get Smart, The Muppets (decades after appearing on their TV series), Going In Style and Tim Burton's Dumbo.

He earned an Oscar nomination for his first credited screen role in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, and another for The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter but would score the trophy itself for Little Miss Sunshine.

On TV, he earned multiple Emmy nominations and appeared on shows such as Chicago Hope, Captain Kangaroo, St. Elsewhere and The Kominsky Method.

"Our father was a uniquely talented force of nature, both as an artist and a man," said his sons Adam, Matthew and Anthony in a joint statement. "A loving husband, father, grand and great grandfather, he was adored and will be deeply missed."

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